Cross-country track planned near proposed tennis center site

Thirty-five acres west of downtown Indianapolis near the White River that is set to be rezoned to provide for a cross-country track is near city-owned property that could house a downtown tennis center.

IndyParks is set to present its rezoning request at 1 p.m. Thursday to the Department of Metropolitan Development’s Division of Planning. The proposal is expected to advance to the Metropolitan Development Commission for final approval.

The rezoning to PK-1, or park district, would affect property along the south bank of Fall Creek and the east bank of White River, from Indiana Avenue south to the National Institute for Fitness and Sport facility on University Boulevard.

The grass surface would remain relatively untouched and could host cross-country meets ranging from the middle-school to Olympic-trial level coordinated by the Indiana Invaders post-collegiate running program.

“This will be an internationally rated cross-country course,” said Paul F. Smith, real estate manager for the city of Indianapolis. “It’s a great surface for runners.”

Just to the north, a parcel east of Fall Creek Parkway and 16th Street Park is one of three properties targeted by a local not-for-profit for a tennis center.

Save Downtown Tennis formed in July 2010, about a month before the Indianapolis Tennis Center was demolished to make way for an expanded parking and some green space on the IUPUI campus.

The tennis center was built on the west side of downtown for $7 million. It opened in 1979 and was a regular stop on the professional tennis circuit for 30 years until organizers announced after the 2009 event that the Indianapolis Tennis Championships were moving to Atlanta.

In a late February report, Save Downtown Tennis proposed three locations where a new tennis center could be built. Besides Fall Creek Parkway and 16th Street, the group also is eying the former Central State Hospital site on West Washington Street and a parcel at 26th Street near the Monon Trail.

The three properties are owned by the city, meaning any project would be a public-private partnership.

Save Downtown Tennis is hopeful a deal can be struck, though discussions between the two are still in the early stages, said Mark Shublak, committee president and a partner at Indianapolis-based law firm Ice Miller LLP.

“Since the report was released, we have been gratified to receive a lot of interest,” he said. “It seems to me the viability of this project is very, very high, and I feel optimistic about its prospects.”

The center would include indoor and outdoor courts and is estimated to cost about $3.5 million, according to the report. A capital campaign has not begun to raise funds to build the center, Shublak said.

“We are having good discussions with the city about the project,” he said. “More than that, it would be premature to say.”

Calls to the mayor’s office were not returned.

Meanwhile, Greg Harger, founder and director of the Indiana Invaders, already has nine middle school and high school cross-country meets lined up for the proposed track this fall. He said the list could grow to 20.

“There’s nothing else you can do with this property,” he said. “It can’t be developed; it’s in a floodplain. It’s truly unique and a pretty special place for a metro area.”


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